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Reality Check: Year review of Diverging Diamond interchange at Airport Road

It's been about a year since the NCDOT opened its diverging diamond traffic pattern on Airport Road, at Interstate 26. DOT traffic counts show about 30,000 drivers go through that intersection per day. With the Mountain State Fair in full swing, that number is likely higher. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

It's been about a year since the NCDOT opened its diverging diamond traffic pattern on Airport Road, at Interstate 26. DOT traffic counts show about 30,000 drivers go through that intersection per day. With the Mountain State Fair in full swing, that number is likely higher.

During the three years of construction on the traffic pattern, Asheville Police responded to 33 crashes in that area. In the nine years before construction started, police responded to 22 crashes at the I-26 intersection on Airport Road. The number of crashes has gone down since construction ended, and the DOT says the redesigned interchange is working as intended.

'They don't like it'

People turn off Airport Road into Circle B Ranch BBQ for slow cooked meat from Bubba. With the Exit and restaurant so close to the airport, plenty of visitors experience both for the first time.

"They don't like it because the change made it hard to get in and hard to get out," Bubba Johnson said of his customers.

"I'm not going to say it on TV what I told somebody that was sitting in the passenger side, but it's very confusing," said George Kinsey, who was visiting Asheville for work. "I didn't know if I was going the right way, and I was following cars."

Cashiers at the store next to Bubba's restaurant hear the same thing, too.

"They tell us about that intersection -- that it is awful, that it's aggravating and there's a lot of accidents because it confuses people," Candy Mathis said.

Diverging Diamond

The design is called a diverging diamond ,with two figure eight-like shapes on each end. It's been open at Airport Road for about a year. The DOT says traffic trends take time to develop.

In the nine years before construction, APD responded to an average of 0.2 crashes per month. Since the construction ended, that rate is 0.6 crashes per month. The DOT says that's an acceptable rate.

"The diverging diamond design is doing exactly what we hoped it would," David Uchiyama, an NCDOT Spokesman, said.

Uchiyama says the intersection was designed to reduce wait times.

"The feedback that we're getting in general is that folks like it because they're getting where they want to go a little bit quicker," Uchiyama said.

Bubba says it's easier to get on the highway, and the DOT says the diverging diamond design is becoming more popular nationwide. The DOT spent $9 million building the interchange.

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